PORT HOOD: Trade disputes with the United States kept management with Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP) maintaining a relatively low profile, but Allan Eddie, PHP’s business development manager, said those matters are settled, which means it’s time to once again touch base with local stakeholders.
It was with that feeling in mind that Eddie visited Inverness Municipal Council for its committee-of-the-whole meeting on July 18. He and Andrew Fedora, PHP’s sustainability and outreach leader, popped into council to reintegrate their fundamentals. He said those fundamentals included a commitment to forest sustainability, supporting communities, and generating a healthy economy.
Maybe the most interesting part of the discussion related to the new economic opportunities PHP is chasing.
“We’re really good at managing forest, we’re really good at pulp, and we’re really good at producing paper, but we’re not necessarily in other industries,” Eddie said, noting that management wants to find strategic partners to team with.
“With the size of the mill and a significant conservation effort, the original water supply has some excess captivity that we could leverage for additional economic activity,” he said. “All of the water on our site, because the tolerances on our machines are so fine, is treated to bottled water standards.”
Another way in which PHP has excess capacity relates to land. The entire grounds of PHP equate to 300 acres, and the company has identified 15 different spots that could be further developed.
Transport opportunities are abundant with PHP, Eddie said, given the company has access to a rail line, is situated on a deep-ice free port, and there is a nearby airport.
“What are some of the opportunities we’re looking at?” Eddie said. “Anything to do with energy is incredibly important to our business. Anything we can do to partner with Nova Scotia Power, find new opportunities to produce energy at lower cost in a sustainable and green fashion, is incredibly important to our business.
“We have transportation options. We have a wharf on an ice-free port that’s a gateway to the world, and we’re looking at some opportunities there.”
One of the products produced at PHP is referred to as mill sludge, a very fine bit of fiber that’s similar to sawdust. Eddie said he and his team are looking at a number of ways to upcycle that product, possibly for soil amendments or fertilizers.
“We think land-based aquaculture has a significant opportunity on our site because, again, you go back to the fresh and salt water supply we have, the waste heat, and the access to transport, we think there’s a tremendous opportunity there,” Eddie said. “We’ve been talking to several different organizations who are interested in land-based aquaculture on our site.”
Eddie said another opportunity exists in a way that might take some people by surprise, as he said it’s not very well-known that products made by petroleum can also be made from wood.
“Green diesel has been around for quite awhile, and it’s generally derived from food-based sources,” he said. “But the life-cycle of some of those [sources] isn’t as green as they’d like it to be, so they brought in new regulation. There are lots of folks chasing that.”
After the presentation, councillor Laurie Cranton asked what effect the potential closure of Northern Pulp would have on the Port Hawkesbury operation. Eddie said the supply chain would likely be affected, but PHP wouldn’t be looking at an “existential” issue.
Councillor John Dowling wondered if a partnership could be fostered between PHP and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal in terms of when land is cleared for a right-of-way. The logistics would have to be worked out, Eddie said, in terms of making it economically viable, but he added the idea is worth looking into.